Tag Archives: media

The Post Should Hire Andrew Metcalf Right Now

By Adam Pagnucco.

MoCo’s most feared man, former Washington Post reporter Bill Turque, has left to terrorize hapless local politicians in Kansas City.  In a rare moment of self-reflection, the newspaper’s bosses have come to realize that “our digital and print readers crave local news” and have posted an ad seeking a Turque successor.  (Let’s remember that this is the same company that killed the Gazette!)  We are sure they will get many qualified applicants, but there’s one name that’s a total no-brainer:

Bethesda Magazine reporter Andrew Metcalf.

Metcalf is a Young Turque.  Just like his older counterpart, Metcalf has been ripping off political band-aids since he arrived here three years ago.  He has covered nearly everything in the county, including budgets, taxes, term limits, legislation, last year’s Congressional election, the Purple Line and much, much more.  His coverage of the liquor monopoly has been second to none, especially his exposure of Delegate Ben Kramer’s conflict of interest as a county liquor store landlord.  He obtained video of Governor Larry Hogan accusing a judge who had ruled against the Purple Line of living at a nearby country club (an inaccurate statement).  He was the first mainstream news reporter to break the news that John Delaney was running for President.  Finally, Metcalf is the author of one of our favorite local stories of all time: “Supposed Nigerian Prince, Robert Lipman Imposter File Public Information Requests with County.”  African monarchs everywhere are writing him into their wills!

Perhaps even more important than his body of work is this fact: Metcalf knows us.  He knows our elected officials, their staffers, the activists, the players and lots of people involved with our political culture.  He knows the structure of the government at both the state and county levels.  He knows our issues: schools, transportation, crime, taxes, jobs, inequality, immigration, cultural diversity and so many others.  He has a deep source network.  And he is developing that combination of respect, trust and wariness that local reporters have with political establishments.  Politicians know they need to be ready when Metcalf calls!

All of these things take time for reporters to develop.  The problem is that we don’t have a lot of time in this county.  One of the most historic elections in our county’s history is approaching in less than a year – and that’s the amount of time it takes most decent reporters to get established.  If the Post hires a brand new person who knows nothing about our county, by the time that person figures out where the bathrooms are, the election will be over.  The obvious solution is to hire a good reporter who already has years of experience covering us and that’s Metcalf.

We understand that Bethesda Magazine publisher Steve Hull is preparing to fire mortar shells at our beloved Limerick Pub in retaliation for this post.  We can’t blame him!  But for the good of the community, the good of local journalism and the good of its own bottom line, the Washington Post needs to hire Andrew Metcalf.  Right.  Frickin.  Now.

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Politicians Rejoice as Bill Turque Leaves

By Adam Pagnucco.

The most feared person in MoCo politics is not an elected official.  He’s not a union leader, a developer, a big contributor or even a blogger.  He’s Washington Post reporter Bill Turque, who has covered the MoCo beat for over four years.  Happily for politicians and unhappily for the rest of us, Turque has stepped down and it’s unclear what the Post will do next.

MoCo officials did not fully understand what they were getting when Turque began writing about the county.  Among his many previous assignments, Turque covered former D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, a FAR tougher figure than any MoCo politician.  Turque’s battle for information from the school system escalated to the point when his own bosses tried to censor him.  Then there’s the story of when the Post allowed Rhee to use one of their conference rooms to hold a meeting.  Rumor has it that Turque quietly walked in with a notepad.  Rhee was about as pleased as a bride who sees a cockroach in her wedding cake!

Politicians in MoCo had it easy from the Post until Turque showed up.  His two predecessors on the MoCo beat were Mike Laris, who wrote one or two articles a month, and Victor Zapana, who was fresh out of college.  Neither knew a lot about the county.  Turque, in contrast, was a long-time resident who quickly learned the history and the players.  Before long, inconvenient stories began appearing in the paper.  Politicians began longing for the days of scanty coverage!

How to pick the Best of Turque?  There are so many articles to choose from.  There’s the time when he outed a union-linked operative as the author of an anonymous attack website targeting former Council Member Valerie Ervin.  Then there was the article in which he called out the County Council for violating its own law on Public Information Act disclosure in taking down email addresses from the county’s website.  Council Member Marc Elrich, who has long said he turns away developer money, was caught by Turque taking money from an attorney who represents developers.  Council Member George Leventhal has yet to recover from Turque’s posting a video of his berating budget director Jennifer Hughes from the dais which was cited in Bethesda Magazine’s coverage of his Executive campaign launch.  And then there’s the Silver Spring Transit Center fiasco, the subject of countless Turque articles up to his flaying the county for getting fleeced by lawyers and experts.  Years ago, a Leggett administration official complained to me about Turque’s relentless coverage of the transit center.  Your author replied, “You can’t blame the wolf for liking the taste of meat!”

Perhaps no politician in the county will be happier to see Turque leave than David Trone.  Turque wrote a story on Trone’s political contributions early in his candidacy for Congress including the now-infamous Trone quote “I sign my checks to buy access.”  Trone’s campaign never got past that statement.  But there was more, including coverage of the Trone Spy and a Trone company’s payment of a fine for making illegal campaign contributions.  We think Trone should celebrate Turque’s retirement by instituting a blow-out sale at Total Wine.  Spread the joy, Mr. Trone!

The key to understanding Turque is that he’s an old-school, all-business reporter.  If you have real information, he’ll look at it.  If you have BS, spin or rumor that repeatedly doesn’t pan out, he sniffs it out lickety-split.  The worst thing one could ever do with Turque is tell him “there’s no story there.”  To Turque, that is proof that there actually IS a story and it will make him dig harder.  One more thing.  Your author has spent countless hours eating sushi with Turque and to this day I have no idea who he voted for.

The future after Turque is hazy at best.  The Post is searching for a successor.  It’s possible that the Post will bring on another newbie like Zapana or perhaps have its MoCo beat reporter take on work outside the county as its solicitation suggests.  Either of those possibilities would likely result in declines of coverage here.  Add that to the demise of the Gazette and the Examiner and, other than Bethesda Magazine and a couple online outlets, we could have a news desert at a time of historic change in county politics.

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Washington Post Looking for Turque Successor

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Washington Post has posted an employment ad seeking a successor to recently departed MoCo beat reporter Bill Turque.  We will have much more to say about Turque soon, but for now, we re-post the ad itself.  (Andrew Metcalf, do you see this?)

*****

The Washington Post’s Metro desk is looking for a reporter to cover government and politics in Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest and perhaps most powerful jurisdiction.

This is a crucial role, as our digital and print readers crave local news. We are looking for a reporter who can provide strong and authoritative coverage of county government and elections, which are unfolding in a new era of term limits and public campaign financing. As the Metro desk continues to try to redefine local news coverage, we are looking for someone who can spot trends in Montgomery and tell readers across the nation why what’s happening in Montgomery has resonance for them. Similarly, the successful candidate will be able to explain how national issues have real-world consequences right here in Montgomery County.

Covering Montgomery County is a great opportunity to write about issues facing 21st-century suburbs, including immigration, the growing importance of mass transit and the challenges posed by aging neighborhoods and infrastructure. It’s also a great place for accountability reporting, with a budget of $5.4 billion and thousands of employees. In addition, there are nearly a million people who live in Montgomery County, and there are human stories to tell.

We are looking for a reporter who can be a collaborative part of our Maryland politics team by helping to cover the upcoming governor’s race and Congressional mid-terms.

If you are interested, please contact Debbi Wilgoren (debbi.wilgoren@washpost.com) Monica Norton (monica.norton@washpost.com), Mike Semel (mike.semel@washpost.com) or Tracy Grant (tracy.grant@washpost.com) no later than Aug. 11.

 

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Governor Trump

By Adam Pagnucco.

One of the reasons why Donald Trump was elected President is that he made things up out of thin air and the press, for the most part, let him get away with it.  Now Governor Larry Hogan is doing the same thing.  And so far, it’s working.

We refer of course to the Governor’s all-out campaign to repeal this year’s transportation transparency law.  The law, passed over the Governor’s veto, would require the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to rank transportation projects according to a variety of numerical criteria to bring transparency into what has been an opaque funding process.  The Governor claims that it would require him to kill most state transportation projects.  But in fact, the plain language of the law lets the Governor have final say over which projects get funded.  It states, “Nothing in this Act may be construed to prohibit or prevent the funding of the capital transportation priorities in each jurisdiction.”

So just like Trump, the Governor is making things up and trotting them out to the press.  How did the press react?  Erin Cox of the Baltimore Sun got the facts right, quoting both the law’s language and an advisory letter from the Attorney General’s office to demonstrate that Hogan is wrong.  A reader had to review the article carefully to glean these things, however, as it also included lots of back-and-forth between politicians.  The Washington Post and the Capital Gazette also quoted the law’s language, though only in passing.

Other press outlets got suckered.  The Hagerstown Herald-Mail, Frederick News-Post, Ocean City Today, WMAR (Baltimore), WJLA (Washington), Bethesda Magazine, Afro-American, WMDT, WTOP and Montgomery Community Media (MCM) never mention what the law actually says, depicting the issue as a he-said-she-said dispute between politicians.  Ocean City Today, WJLA and WMDT never bothered to quote any Democrats, giving the Governor free rein.  WJLA, WMAR, MCM and the Afro-American stated falsely that certain transportation projects either “were,” “will be” or “have been” canceled.  Again, the law says no such thing and a simple fact-check could have uncovered that.

The real story here is that one side is accurately characterizing state law and the other side is making stuff up.  No one in the press wrote that story.

Even more incredibly, the Governor said in his press conference about the law that the General Assembly “rammed it through without hearings or any public input.”  You can see that in the video below at the -10:40 mark.

In fact, video of the hearings in both the Senate and the House are available on the General Assembly’s website.  Pete Rahn, the Governor’s Secretary of Transportation, attended both.  This is a pants-on-fire lie that no press outlet exposed.

rahn-testimony

Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn testifying at the Senate hearing that Governor Hogan says never happened.

For a person who is known as not being a fan of Donald Trump, the Governor is remarkably quick to embrace his tactics: make stuff up, ignore the truth and bully anyone who disagrees.  Most of the press is letting him get away with it.

Will the Democrats?

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Josh Kurtz Raising Money for New Media Venture

By Adam Pagnucco.

Legendary Maryland politics writer Josh Kurtz is raising money for a new independent media venture.  He has partners and he has an angel investor, so this could be for real, folks!

Kurtz, whose statehouse and local political reporting led to the Gazette’s Politics and Business edition twenty years ago, is regarded by many as Maryland’s best political columnist.  Over the last few years, his columns have been published weekly by Center Maryland.  But Kurtz is not content with his current gig.  Like many in the state, he has identified a void in state and local news coverage as we described in our Politics After the Gazette series.  And now Kurtz and a team of supporters are actually doing something about that: they are starting a new independent news site called Maryland Matters.

The concept of Maryland Matters is to have a lean, online news operation that would provide objective reporting and, eventually, commentary.  Kurtz would like to have five full-time reporters, a couple of editors and a few business and technology people when the site is fully built out.  Revenue would come from contributions that would be matched by a family foundation (more below).  Other journalists who are connected to the project include former Post reporter Miranda Spivack, Bethesda Magazine reporter Lou Peck, former editor of Charles County’s Maryland Independent Angela Breck and University of Maryland journalism professor Adrianne Flynn.  One or more of these folks might eventually provide content to the site.  Kurtz has a steering committee featuring MANY prominent names from Maryland political circles.

Kurtz is holding a fundraiser in Annapolis on October 24 featuring the Post’s superstar national political analyst Chris Cillizza.  If you follow Maryland news and politics, you should consider supporting this venture.  Josh Kurtz’s credentials are beyond question and if this new site succeeds, it could be a turning point for state news coverage.

Following is the blast email promoting the fundraiser.

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maryland-matters

Dear [ ]:

Want to hear from one of the nation’s premier political prognosticators just two weeks before Election Day — and support a great cause at the same time?

Then you’ll want to join us at a fundraiser in Annapolis on Monday, October 24 for Maryland Matters, an independent news website intended to be a one-stop shop for government and political coverage in Annapolis and in local jurisdictions around the Free State. Chris Cillizza, author of “The Fix” column at The Washington Post, will be our special guest.

For the past year, several journalists, as well as concerned citizens from business, communications, law and the public sector, have been working to launch Maryland Matters. It’s modeled on other excellent nonprofit online publications — from California and Texas to Connecticut and Vermont — created to ensure the survival of the type of “accountability journalism” that, for more than a century, was largely the province of the nation’s newspapers.

I don’t have to tell you that the resources devoted to state and local coverage by such institutions as the Post and The Baltimore Sun have shrunk dramatically in recent years. Other publications that once did an excellent job covering the State House, like The Gazette and The Examiner, are gone completely.

We aspire to fill this void by establishing the largest news bureau in Annapolis during the three months of the year when the General Assembly is in session, as well as providing year-round coverage of the executive branch and state regulatory agencies, major local jurisdictions, and the Maryland congressional delegation in Washington. Our plan is to launch Maryland Matters in 2017.

We’re happy to say that our idea has met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region has created a fund for Maryland Matters, which enables us to solicit and collect tax-deductible contributions. Needless to say, it will cost a significant amount of money to pull this off.

But as we say in the news business, I’m burying the lede here: Just a couple of weeks ago, we got a financial angel — a family foundation has informed us that if we can raise $250,000, they will match it. This is exciting news and puts a lot of wind at our backs. Every contribution we receive is now essentially doubled.

So we are inviting you to our first Annapolis fundraiser, to be held from 5-7 p.m. onMonday, October 24, in the upstairs room at Stan & Joe’s, at 37 West Street. We’re honored to have Chris Cillizza joining us. We can’t think of a better person to talk about this crazy election year — and we hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to chat with him.

The suggested contribution is $250. We welcome donations both larger and smaller. Checks may be made out to: Maryland Matters Fund/Community Foundation. They can be brought to the event at Stan & Joe’s or mailed to the community foundation at 1201 15th St. NW, Suite 420, Washington, DC 20005.

We hope to see you on the 24th, so you can be more fully informed about our plans and spread the word to others. If you are not able to make it, I hope you can send along a contribution anyway — and tell your friends and colleagues about what we’re trying to do.

As a journalist, I’m not used to asking others for contributions. But all of us involved in this venture believe that nothing less than an informed public — elected officials, political activists, and voters at large — is at stake. So please be as generous as you can.

All the best,

Josh Kurtz

 

Maryland Matters Steering Committee Includes:

Hon. Michael Barnes

Angela Breck

Hon. Bill Bronrott

Bonnie Casper

Thomas Dennison

Adrianne Flynn

Andrew Friedson

Keith Haller

Ed Holzinger

Curtis Johnson

Hamza Khan

Joel Kirkland

Josh Kurtz

Hon. Terry Lierman

Len Lucchi

Hon. Connie Morella

Tyler Patton

Lou Peck

Hon. Steve Silverman

Hon. Jeffrey Slavin

Miranda Spivack

Hon. Chris Trumbauer

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